Hire the person, not the resume


Share on LinkedIn

If you’re like me, you have made some terrific hiring decisions. A number of people I hired went on to be excellent employees and highly successful people. The people I’m most proud of are the ones that on paper didn’t necessarily look like they would be so successful.

There’s the young woman who had never done anything but cashier, who eventually went on to become an amazing store manager. The waitress who had never worked in retail and went on to be the best salesperson I have ever known. The “over-qualified” professional who became one of the best store managers who ever worked for me.

None of these people would have been hired if I had focused only on the resume and not the person.

I also made some truly bad hiring decisions. The people themselves were good people, but they were a terrible fit for the job. When I look at my biggest hiring mistakes, I can see that I was swayed by the person’s background. I just assumed the person was strong in his/her position since they had worked for companies I admired.

Most of these people would not have been hired if I had focused more on the person and much less on his/her resume.

Hiring is always a crapshoot; most of you are quite good at it. At the same time, we don’t always know if we missed hiring a superstar or a diamond in the rough. Unfortunately we do know when we’ve made a bad hire.

Here are some tips for a hiring the person, not the resume.

1. Don’t automatically reject someone because he/she doesn’t have a retail background. In fact, no retail experience can even be seen as a plus instead of a minus. You can teach a person with no retail experience the right way to engage customers.

I met a retailer who didn’t hire people without a retail background because, in her mind, they wouldn’t want to work weekends and nights. I reminded her that she could simply tell applicants that working weekends and nights is a non-negotiable part of the job.

2. Try to meet every applicant. I can learn more in the first two or three minutes of a conversation with someone than from thirty minutes reading a resume. I don’t care where the person has worked if he/she is smiling, energetic, and interested in the products my store sells.

3. Interview a lot of people when you have an open position. I know it’s a lot easier to whittle down the interview list to just a few people with a great background, but that’s how you miss those potential superstars that just need someone to give them a chance. I like to do an initial interview on the phone. If an applicant can’t keep my interest on the phone, chances are they won’t do it in person.

4. Focus your interview on the person, not just their work experience. That’s why I like to use behavioral based interviewing questions. I want to know how someone acted in the past in particular situations. I’m not interested in canned answers about how they’re a people person or how their presumably soon-to-be-former employer ran a store.

5. Spend part of the interview working together on the floor. Instead of asking an applicant to tell you about her customer service and selling skills, have her show you with real customers. This is an especially great exercise when the person doesn’t have a traditional retail background.

At the end of the day you may end up hiring someone with a great resume but if you do your due diligence, chances are you’ll also end up with a great person.


Doug Fleener, a proven retail and customer experience expert and consultant, helps companies dramatically improve their customer experience and their results. Visit our Dynamic Experiences Group website, or call Doug at 866-535-6331 to discuss how he can help you create an extraordinary experience and results.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here